Food as Medicine

Sun, 04/10/2016 - 10:56pm -- Monica Gush

I was working in the kitchen today, preparing my meals for the next few days and it occurred to me that what I was doing was rather unusual in this day and age.  I had mentioned it in one of my previous blog posts and wanted to expand on it.  I’m not talking about the actual act of preparing the meals instead of going out to eat or even the whole foods style of cooking.  I’m talking about the reason behind why I had chosen and was preparing these particular foods.  

  1. Green beans with a tomato-garlic-parsley sauce

  2. Baked oatmeal

  3. Baked potatoes

  4. Baked sweet potatoes

  5. Beet-apple-carrot salad

  6. Rutabaga fries

  7. Veggie salad with homemade dressing

  8. Steamed brussel sprouts

At first glance, it probably seems like an ordinary, very healthy diet, which it is. And it’s definitely many of my favorite foods (except for the green bean sauce - I won’t be making that again!).  But there is more to it than that.  Almost every single item has a medicinal purpose. That’s the unusual part.  I’m using food as medicine.  



Since the first round of the three IV antibiotics I got in the hospital a couple years ago, I’ve had candida. Candida is an overgrowth of the yeast that exists in our system in normally small and controlled quantities.  When we go killing off the good bacteria with antibiotics, there’s nothing to keep the yeast in check and it can flourish.  If it takes off enough and your immune system isn’t strong enough to stop it, it can be life threatening.  Fortunately, it’s never gotten to that point in me but after the second set of antibiotics a few months after the first, my candida was more than just in my mouth as thrush and in my gut. It was systemic and my numbers were in the high range, and a year and a half later, I still very definitely feel its effects.  I’ll spare you a description of all the unpleasant symptoms.


My doctor had tried to put me on pharmaceutical antifungals to kill the candida.  But when she handed me the antifungal prescription along with an order for a monthly blood draw to check my liver function because of the damage the medicine can do, I never even got the prescription filled.  I’d had my fill of western medicine and never returned for another appointment with her.


Meanwhile, I was having unexplainable gut issues different from the original infection and different from the c-diff outbreaks. I never used to have problems with any foods.  Even up until the second set of antibiotics, when I was able to eat, I could eat anything without issue.  Nothing caused me any issues outside of what the infection caused.  With the second set of antibiotics and c-diff, that changed drastically.  I quickly started suspecting a pattern with foods and did an elimination diet over about 6 months.  I started out with one food and ate only that one food for 3 or 4 days.  If there were no issues, I’d add another and another.  On certain foods I ate, it would kick up these new gut issues to an intolerable level.  I narrowed it down and discovered that even small amounts of apple cider vinegar, rutabagas, coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, or garlic would put me back in bed for a good week or so until things calmed down again.  I started researching these foods and discovered that they were all natural antifungals.  And for a while, I stayed as far away from them as I could.  I didn’t need more hell at the time.  


Eventually, I started incorporating them into my diet in small quantities, being uber careful to not accidentally do too much.  Two rutabaga fries one day, a 1/2 teaspoon of ACV in my salad dressing a few days later, a small clove of crushed garlic in my soup, etc.  I did that for a few months - gradually increased the amount and frequency and occasionally overdosed and caused a temporary setback that required allowing my gut to recover until I could resume the antifungals.  I did this until another round of hell started from my little jaunt to Colorado.  After that my gut was too sensitive to even consider antifungals until a couple months ago when I started back on them again.  I’ve slowly been able to increase them much more quickly this time around and I recover much more quickly when I do overdo it.  


So, taking another look at this week’s menu, here is why I chose what I chose:


  1. Green beans with a tomato-garlic-parsley sauce - pressed garlic in the sauce is a mild antifungal
  2. Baked oatmeal - I make the oatmeal with coconut milk which is an antifungal

  3. Baked potatoes - high in potassium

  4. Baked sweet potatoes - satisfies my sweet tooth while being nutritious

  5. Beet-apple-carrot salad - The beets are a powerful liver cleanser which is necessary when clearing toxins (such as candida) out of the system.  The carrot and apple work together - the acid in the apple help release more of the vitamins of the carrots than if they were eaten alone.  And the beets and apple work together as well but I can’t remember how and can’t find the reference.

  6. Rutabaga fries - very powerful antifungals!!!  Be careful about eating these if you’ve taken antibiotics recently.  All other natural antifungals (except ACV) are mild by comparison

  7. Veggie salad with homemade dressing - homemade dressing has ACV, an antifungal

  8. Steamed brussel sprouts - just because they’re my favorite vegetable and they’re good for me!

As you can see, I get a steady stream of antifungals each day.  Some are stronger than others so I still watch how much rutabagas and ACV I take in in a day.  Besides the above, I’m also using other foods as medicine - eggs, blackstrap molasses in my oatmeal, and copious amounts of spinach for a source of iron (and always paired with a food high in vitamin C for increased iron absorption) since I’m not able to tolerate red meat or other vegetarian sources of iron yet.

So, I said all that to say this.  Back in the fall, I had no interest in living if I was going to have to live for another 5, 10, 20 years in that manner.  And I still have no interest in living in that manner nor am I interested in just “managing my symptoms” or avoiding things for the rest of my life the way modern medicine operates.  My mission is to heal.  Not to just a satisfactory level but to even better health than I had before I got sick.  I have the recipe for it.  And a piece of that recipe is the food I eat.  

Here’s the thing though.  It’s not an instant fix like we’re conditioned to expect with traditional medicine. Healing takes time. I still have daily unpleasant symptoms but they are at a tolerable level most of the time which is a far cry from 5 months ago.  Each month I’m seeing some kind of improvement.  Last month, being on my feet in the kitchen two days in a row wiped me out for several days.  This month, it took two days of building a compost bin - swinging a hammer and carrying plywood, which is considerably more strenuous than working in the kitchen - to wipe me out for a few days.  

But I’m healing and not just suppressing symptoms and a good part of it is through using food as my medicine.  

For more information, Charlotte Gerson describes the process of disease and using food to heal much more eloquently than I ever could:



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Frederick, MD 21704